A couple years back, I was able to participate in a think-tank event hosted by AIIM.org in Chicago attended by CIOs, CMOs, and many senior managers who owned collaboration within their organizations. Consensus among those participating was that the shift toward the cloud is forcing companies to seriously consider their existing systems, and whether current strategies are delivering expected value. This room full of business leaders largely agreed on one thing -- that most of our collaboration initiatives have not lived up to their promises. With so much change happening within the enterprise collaboration space -- and with Microsoft and other software providers dramatically increasing the rate at which they innovate -- it is time for companies to re-think and reset their expectations for their collaboration platform.
To be fair, the prevailing issues with any single platform or tool have less to do with the technology, and more to do with a lack of planning, a lack of governance, and a failure to understand how these technologies can help (or hinder) their businesses. But from the event's anecdotal feedback, it appears that companies are giving this change -- and any new deployments or investments -- much more scrutiny than in the past, which is a good thing. Organizations must not simply jump into the deep end of the pool because of any new feature or vendor offering, but think through each system, each solution, and determine whether these innovations will truly benefit their employees and customers.
Is there a shift in how executives are looking toward the next wave of enterprise collaboration tools? Do they understand the root cause of previous failures? It got me thinking about what leaders really want from these platforms -- and not in terms of meaningless platitudes and sales hype, but in common sense terms.
In short, what CEOs and CIOs want to get out of their broader collaboration initiatives are the following:
Looking at data around “adoption” is an insufficient indicator as to whether people are actually using the technology provided, or getting value from their tools. Executives are looking for deeper insight into what activities people are using successfully, which ones drive the most business benefit, and which ones they can reduce, improve, or remove if it means focusing on those areas that are most effective.
At the end of the day, productivity is the goal of all of our structured collaboration and unstructured collaboration efforts. They’ve spent massive amounts on these tools and platforms, and so it is no surprise that they want to see that these financial investments are turning into more business output and streamlined processes. The tools and platforms should reduce barriers, and allow employees to do more.
Beyond productivity, this is a much more specific question – are people leveraging the combined knowledge of the organization? Executives want to know whether the technology is a limiting factor, or whether there are cultural habits which restrict how people share, and search for, content and expertise. This is one metric that is poorly reported in existing tools, but is essential in understanding how well people are actually collaborating.
This is more of a question of community. Executives want to know whether the tools we use are bringing us closer together as a company, allowing geographically dispersed team members to actively participate in what is happening at headquarters, and to give everyone a voice.
Ultimately, the investments made need to directly tie to more business activity, more leads, more customers, more revenue. While many leaders recognize the qualitative benefits of collaboration, when budgets are under review and markets are uncertain, Executives need to be able to point to hard numbers – and IT leaders need to be able to draw lines between specific technology initiatives and positive revenue performance.
Obviously, your executive team is likely asking many more questions than just these, but having answers for each of the above will make you better prepared for these discussions, and help you to more clearly articulate the benefits of the solutions you ultimately recommend. It is never too late to reset expectations for your collaboration platform -- just make sure you've thought through these business-critical issues.
At Beezy, we know that businesses want more than flashy features and fancy UIs -- they need to understand the value of what they're buying. That's why we're proud to show how our SharePoint and Office 365 solution can have a direct impact on your company's bottom line. Haven't seen a demo of our award-winning solution? Sign up for a demo today.
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